City Mulls Expansion of Displaced Persons Unit

The City of Cape Town is considering the expansion of its Displaced Persons Unit (DPU) and the equipment available to them in order to deal with the increasing challenges related to homelessness. The City’s Law Enforcement unit is one of the departments tasked with responding to challenges presented by homelessness in the city. Read more below:

The DPU works closely with the City’s Social Development and Early Childhood Development Department to respond to complaints and concerns about street people. While the Social Development Department’s Reintegration Unit works to offer short- to long-term alternatives to get persons off the street, the DPU’s mandate is to enforce the provisions of the By-law relating to Streets, Public Places and Prevention of Noise Nuisances.

Section two of the by-law deals with prohibited behaviours like urination in public, erecting structures, making fires etc. – offences that are often committed by people living on the street.

This week, the Executive Mayor joined the DPU during an operation in the Central Business District and surrounds – an area that accounts for countless complaints from the public.

‘Homelessness is a complicated issue and, as an administration, we are in a catch-22 situation. If we enforce the City’s by-laws too rigidly, we appear uncaring. If we turn a blind eye, we are accused of inaction by the residents and businesses whose lives are impacted on a daily basis by the actions of small pockets of individuals.

‘There are many challenges, both operational and legislative, but we have to find a way to ensure that our interventions are more effective. The Culemborg Safe Space has made remarkable strides since its launch in mid-July. I have committed to finding funding for two more such spaces. I have also asked that we increase the capacity of the Displaced Persons Unit to respond more quickly to complaints so that we can tackle the anti-social and often criminal behaviour that comes with the phenomenon of homelessness,’ said Executive Mayor, Alderman Dan Plato.

In the 2017/18 financial year, the City’s Law Enforcement Department responded to 23 097 complaints relating to street people – a 53% increase on the previous year. It is the leading complaint received by Law Enforcement, along with noise nuisances in residential areas.

‘We are working with Law Enforcement and the DPU to improve the effectiveness of their enforcement efforts as well as the challenges and shortcomings in the criminal justice system which makes the enforcement work ineffective and creates the impression with the public that Law Enforcement and Metro Police are not acting on their complaints and the by-law transgressions. This is being balanced against training our staff to be more sensitive in how they undertake their enforcement and making sure they work with social development agencies to assist people on the street with accommodation and employment where possible.

‘Another key element will be engagement with other government departments like the Department of Justice, the National Prosecuting Authority, Home Affairs and Correctional Services. We find many undocumented foreign nationals on the streets who cannot be assisted through the regular channels, even if they want social assistance. In recent years, we have also seen an increase in the number of parolees who are either unable to return to their communities for various reasons, or who have no reasonable prospects when they leave prison and are forced onto the streets,’ said the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security, Alderman JP Smith.

The above was supplied by the Media Office, City of Cape Town, on 20/12/2018.

Team Neighbourly